1999

Ms. Freeman was my third grade art teacher; to say the least she was bizarre. She was everything an art teacher should be: quirky, liberal, a sandal enthusiast, loved loud boisterous music. How could this woman be anything, but an art teacher?

I was nine when I first met Ms. Freeman and she scared the crap out of me. She was tall and had a pixie haircut, black circular glasses embellished with dashes of paint framed her eyes. Impulse and spontaneity would be understating this woman’s persona; she jumped on tables, randomly took us to the park and screamed for no reason. Ms. Freeman was a lunatic.

One afternoon, Ms. Freeman had purchased and distributed sketch books to myself and the rest of my classmates. Thirty-five students in a cramped art studio were completely in awe, including myself, I had never received something so wonderful. The class assignment for the rest of the year was to draw every single day. We were instructed to obey any impulse that came over us to draw.

After she handed out each sketch book, Ms. Freeman then gave out pencils to accompany our new sketch books. However, these pencils did not have erasers, this really pissed me off. This was clearly illogical and it did not fly with me, especially at the age of nine. All I did was make errors, how could I not be given an eraser? My hand shot up and I asked, “Ms. Freeman what if we make a mistake?”

Her head turned sideways and she smiled.

“Art can be found within every and any mistake.”

It was at this moment that I determined Ms. Freeman was beyond a lunatic. This meant nothing to me but rhetoric, so occasionally I would sneak erasers into class. Ms. Freeman knew that I would be a repeat-offender-eraser, so she kept a close eye on me and consistently threw my erasers away.

Finally, the day came that I understood what Ms. Freeman meant by art and mistakes coinciding with one another. The class had been working on charcoal pieces. Each art table had a log or branches scattered across the surface; we were to draw them without looking at our paper. This woman was killing me, first erasers, now I couldn’t look at my paper?! What was to come next? No bathroom passes?

“Your eyes are little ants moving across the branches”.

Fine. I’ll play along.

Within a matter of minutes I had concluded that I messed up and needed to start over. I asked for another piece of paper and Ms. Freeman responded with a question and look of confusion. “What is wrong with the piece you have?”

I corresponded with the same look and a question framed a little differently, “Can’t you tell?”

Ms. Freeman did not see what was wrong with my paper. I pointed to the mistake I made.

“How do you think you can make it better?”

Now, I was completely confused.

“I don’t know..”

She nodded to my paper and piece of charcoal, alluding that I should take another stab at my drawing. I picked up my charcoal and tried once more to emulate the figure on my desk.

“Don’t think, just draw.”

I paused, absorbed this advice and just drew. Astonishingly, I actually liked what I had created; it looked good.

Ms. Freeman is the reason why I find the beauty in my often chaotic life. When I find myself pleading with my therapist to help me figure out who I am, he reminds me that the answer is on my arm. My Degas ballerinas are who I am. It is not their depiction or the hues of their skirts, but the very fact that I materialized what is inside of me on my arm. Their imprint suggests that I am more self-aware than I might believe I am.

My three little ballerinas are a minor representation of what I am, and each day they remind me of the person I’d like to become..someone like Angela Freeman.